Doctors did not recognise young mum’s tumour symptoms

A YOUNG mother who underwent brain surgery to remove a tumour has told how doctors did not diagnose her symptoms on three occasions despite repeatedly complaining of headaches and dizziness.

Maria Winchester, 34, of Wittersham Rise, told the Observer how one doctor prescribed anti-depressants after she had a seizure in bed.

The mother-of-one’s ordeal began in October 2010 when she started to have headaches and feel dizzy.

She had a five month-old-son, Oliver, and put it down to post natal stress.

But in November she started to become depressed and lose weight and her health deteriorated over the next few months.

On March 14 she went to visit her GP, Dr Paul Seal at Station Practice in Hastings.

“I had headaches for a few months before. The doctor he said it could be post natal depression. “He tried to put me on anti depressants and then referred me to a post natal support group and made a referral to the Health in Mind counselling service.”

Maria, who works as a team leader at a firm of accountants, did not take the drugs but her condition deteriorated and on August 4 she returned to the surgery.

Maria complained she was depressed, dizzy and had headaches. Dr Sarah Thomson diagnosed pre menstrual tension syndrome. She asked for blood tests and on August 10 she underwent full tests in the surgery.

On September 25 Maria suffered a seizure in bed at 10.20pm. Her husband Matt had to call paramedics who took her to the Conquest.

An A&E doctor discussed the symptoms and said that she would be referred to the Neurology department. She was sent home at 4am.

“Why considering the symptoms did they not refer me straight away for an MRI scan then?” said Maria.

“It was obviously a lot more serious than post natal depression or PMT.”

On September 26 she had a meeting with another GP, Dr Sharon Margutti to discuss her seizure. Maria said the doctor diagnosed anxiety with depression and prescribed anti-depressants.

After researching on line, on September 30 Maria phoned and asked Dr Seal for 24 hour blood pressure monitoring. She also told him she was a member of Benenden and asked for an appointment to be made.

On October 4 Maria had a 24 hour blood pressure monitoring machine attached and samples taken.

On October 31 Maria went to the neurology department at The Conquest. A request was made by the registrar for an MRI scan and EEG brain test.

Maria said: “The registrar said she would put a request in for EEG monitoring and a brain scan. She said I should not drive for six months and review me again in three months time.

“The day after I went back to the Conquest A&E because I had a voice in my head and thought I was going mad.

“I thought I was going to pass out. My parents took me up and I was just discharged after a checkover.

“On November 3 I saw neurologist Dr Sam Chong at Benenden Hospital Trust. He referred me for an MRI scan and a sleep EEG test.

“On November 17 I had an MRI scan at Benenden. The following week Dr Chong told me I needed another scan as they had found something.

“On the same day, I got a phone call from doctor Lia Suvorova at Conquest asking me whether I had received a letter.

“She apologised as request for EEG and MRI scan had not been made as there had been a mix up.

“I should expect to receive them and be seen in December.”

Maria then received a letter from the hospital at Hurstwood Park Neurological Centre on December 21 asking me to call.

“I received a letter asking me to call the hospital to arrange an appointment for an EEG. But I rang and told them I already had and EEG. Had I not had my private health care I would still have been waiting.Nobody should every have to go through this ever again.”

An operation took place at King’s College Hospital, London on January 27.

Dr Andrew Foulkes, NHS Sussex medical director, said: “I am sorry Maria Winchester has been through what must have been a very difficult and distressing time.

“Her initial description of headaches and depression could have had a number of different causes. With Mrs Winchester’s permission we will review the clinical care she received and see if there is any learning we can share with our GPs to assist a swifter diagnosis in future.”

Dr Paul Seal said: “I am truly sorry for the difficult time the patient and her family have been through over the last 18 months.

“I have since met with the patient to learn from her experience and am now implementing further training to help our doctors and staff.”

Tom Gurney, spokesman for East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “We are sorry Mrs Winchester was not happy with the care she received in our hospital and if she would like to contact us directly then we would be happy to discuss her concerns and investigate the case further.”

Maria is now backing the Head Smart project which aims to enhance the awareness of symptoms of brain tumours in children and young people. For more information visit

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